Elizabeth J. Kovacs, PhD, professor of GI, trauma, and endocrine surgery, has been named vice chair of research in the CU Department of Surgery.
In her new role, Kovacs is responsible for advancing the research mission of the department, with particular focus on deepening and broadening the department’s research portfolio.
This includes basic and translational science, outcomes, education, and clinical/health services research, as well as innovation pathways.
“Research improves everything,” says Kovacs, who received a BA in biology from Reed College and a PhD in cell biology from the University of Vermont. “It brings in better residents and faculty, it excites people about the field, and it allows us to shake up the dogma of how things are done and do them better. Gaining new knowledge is critically important to all of us.”
Kovacs joined the CU Department of Surgery in 2016; prior to that she was professor and vice chair of research in the Department of Surgery at Loyola University Chicago. At Loyola, Kovacs also was director of the alcohol research program and director of research of the Burn and Shock Trauma Institute. She relocated her laboratory to the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, where she is now director of the burn research and alcohol research programs.
“Having been in the department for the past few years, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to inspire and participate in the growth of coordinated research initiatives designed to make us bigger, better, and more collaborative,” she says. “I want us to be known locally and nationally as a department of research excellence that is working to improve the lives of our patients, our people, and the broader community.”
Collaboration is key
In her new position as vice chair of research in the Department of Surgery, Kovacs is responsible for supporting the research development of faculty and trainees and managing research initiatives and efforts by optimizing resource sharing, including lab space, shared services, core functions, and equipment. She will also work to expand the department’s research reputation, both nationally and internationally, and promote collaboration between surgery faculty and the broader range of investigators at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus and affiliated institutions.
“I want us to be more collaborative and interactive within the Department of Surgery and around campus,” Kovacs says. “Part of our departmental strategic planning initiative is to expand our reach. That is, to find others across the campus who are outstanding basic and clinician scientists and establish important connections and partnerships with them. To accelerate progress, we need to bridge the gaps between basic and translational science and clinical practice with novel ideas and new technologies.”
Kovacs also recognizes the need for expanded mentoring of individuals who are new to research and providing them with seed money for pilot projects that are directed toward garnering extramural funding. She believes the department needs a robust research seminar series featuring a mix of internal and external speakers. Kovacs wants to make the Department of Surgery a vital part of the research enterprise on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.
“One of the great things about a campus this size is that there are endless opportunities to work with other laboratories and research groups,” she says. “There are so many great things that we can do together as a team. I love working here. The University is awesome. My department is spectacular. There are so many brilliant people here who I know well and whom I have yet to meet.”